On the Notion of Sovereignty

Arnold Toynbee has defined sovereignty as the main religion of the mankind worshiping god of Moloch that demands bloody sacrifice of oneself, one’s children and relatives, i.e. entire human race.

Aurelio Peccei, the founder of the Club of Rome, has been rather sceptic over national sovereignty. In his opinion, the concept of independence is replaced by the thesis of multilateral dependence of all the elements of international system. This is the first but absolutely necessary step out of the present anarchic and uncontrollable state of things based on so-called “sovereignties” of chaotic multitude of competing and quarreling states. In the era of global human empire national sovereignty is the main obstacle on the way to salvation. The fact that the concept is still stubbornly preserved as the ruling principle of state structure is a typical syndrome of abnormality of our cultural development, hence of all our troubles. In present-day reality national sovereignty is equivalent to mass suicide per se.

On the level of commonplace consciousness the idea of sovereignty is still bearing meaning more magic than logical. Now it is the time to put aside stereotypes of restrained sense of provincial ethnic inferiority, to stop perceiving Federal Russia as some “enemy” that allegedly dreams of “eating up”, belittling independence and free development of its regions. It is the time to clear up the sense of the term of “sovereignty”. If one tries to interpret the essence of the concept through unprejudiced analysis, not popular philistine outlook, it will inevitably place the question of sovereignty on the problem plane. Entire historic experience makes us doubt total absoluteness of the notional content of the “treacherous” word that has been pretty well saddening destinies of many people. The latter are apt to childishly play with fetish rattle of sovereignty as well as to go berserk slaughtering their neighbours in irrational ethnic conflicts and fratricidal wars. Indeed, they do not know what they are doing.

More and more often the notion of sovereignty plays a role of some smoke screen hiding certain ambitions of political forces in their striving for power. Actually, there should not be any sole and integral sovereignty in the modern world. A sole and integral sovereignty in its specific historic form is totalitarianism or some archaic relic despotism survived to nowadays exclusively due to certain collisions and upheavals rooted in uneven social historic development of different communities.

Meanwhile, civilizational reality gives birth not to one but three kinds of sovereignty, i.e. economic, national (civic rather than ethnic), and state. There is surely nothing mystic in these three sovereignties and in their coexistence. It must be frankly admitted that, putting self-delusion aside, the major sense and underlying reason of civilizational modernization of yet retarded and doomed to finish its development Eurasia lies in the fact that these three sovereignties must belong to different subjects and no to single one.

1. Economic sovereignty should be taken off the state and given to private person, entrepreneur, businessman, moneymaker, or so-called “profiteer”, “nouveau riche”, i.e. the subject of economic sovereignty is a businessman, employer, worker, and actor, representing the third estate, one willing and able to do serious work and to do it seriously. This, in fact, explains the main goal of Russian privatization “from above”, despite all its ugly manifestations to some extent caused by advice and suggestion of the State itself.

2. National sovereignty should be taken off the state. Here “taking off” has some certain sense, hence many of our social scientists are inclined to identify the notions of “ethnos” and “nation”, though identifications of the kind do not stand up to criticism. Ethnos’ (not nation’s) right for self-determination is its own business and concern. It is the one to determine its fate (of cause, if inalienable rights do not egoistically invade the rights, honour and dignity of citizens of other ethnic origin). Ethnoses, as subjects of their (and only their) unchallengeable and incontrovertible cultural ethnic originality. However, any ethnos is not lonely in the world and all ethnoses are not equal (as all people are not equal). Besides ethnic culture, there exist classic over-ethnic cultures standing higher on evolutionary scale of rank. Synthesis of the latter is a reality common to all mankind; universality of these cultures put them indubitably higher than any, however over-original, ethnic culture; these universal cultures imbibe ethnic cultures in all their originality and “autonomous” integrity (and there is space for all there!).

This is that superethnic reality of advanced social existence unified in its diversity not in unitary depersonalization that creates the substance of “nation”, i.e. nation as a synonym of civil society indifferent to one’s skin colour, size of one’s eyes, or one’s ethnic origin. To represent an ethnic culture, one does not need to do anything: by birth, you get some certain ethnic corporality (as a rule, one cannot choose an ethnic origin). Living with your people, you are introduced to its values, affirming and asserting them, increasing them to the best of your abilities.

Things are different for classic (national) and post-classic (global post-national) cultures representing this or that current (historically formed for centuries, not at one dash) civilizational form of national sovereignty understood not mechanically - “one ethnos, one state” (that is not valid for Eurasia with its mixture of ethnoses that are in the situation of joint diaspora coexistence) - but as co-citizenship in its essence. Entering such a culture requires qualitatively different level of sovereignty; this is always the result of individual service, where particular ethnic attributes play no role at all. Hence, the substance of national sovereignty is not ethnic but individual. That is axiomatic. It seems simple, but discouraging misunderstanding of the fact by narrow-minded consciousness as well as neglect on the level of working politics (in “practice” of politics of international dissention massacre, in “hot spots’, and in acts of terrorism) allows us to come to distressing conclusion: our Eurasian nations have nor yet moved near the condition of national sovereignty in its genuine, not ostentatious, pretentious, irresponsible sense. The state can promulgate excellent laws on co-citizenship and eagerly suppress fatal and shameful consequences of its trample; however, only when these laws become a habit of everybody as a hard-won and unconditional obligation, personal credo, we will find a civil society in its true sense.

3. State sovereignty is a specific compromise of authority: “Give God what belongs to God (sacral), give Caesar what belongs to Caesar (profane)”. In this case the subject of sovereignty is the state as the supreme institution of the government ruling the society (ideally) when it meets the requirements of the latter and is not doubtful in its existence (that cannot be excepted). It is generally known that our state system has always been taken as some end in itself. All or almost all our problems, including unitarism and totalitarianism arise from that. Totalitarianism, even in its diminished pattern after collapse of the Soviet Union, manifests itself in the form as absurd as “one state, one ethnos” - the exact formula of irrational and destructive collapse. The topic of state sovereignty is a complex problem, undoubtedly requiring various approaches. We may suppose that the pattern of “national” (ethnonatiocratic) state organization is a typical (and in many respects unavoidable) form of autodecomposition of Russian Eurasia. On all the levels there is a painful quest for the way out of deadlock centrifugal alternatives - to the extent of generating national (and “national”) sovereignized formations. There is nothing new about that; all Russian distempers have been going on that way.

It is important to realize that to be a nation (since many cannot understand what it means “to be a nation”) is nothing more nor less than to be able to feed oneself, to be oneself in complete harmony with the historic commonness of destinies, inseparably linked with one’s neighbours, whatever nationality they may be, - not like just some ethnic conglomerates, but indeed as citizens. For the latter all sorts of sovereignty have only a slight effect, are relative and transient, if they do not guarantee the superior sovereignty of individual, of personality as the final stage of spiritual evolution meeting the requirements of common civilizational dominant. In many respects Russian Eurasia has happened to be unprepared to comprehend the idea of personal sovereignty, its absolute primacy over all other, relic, and primitive views on sovereignty as a neomythological notion.

In today’s Eastern Europe desovereigntization is under way. Powerful integration processes develop there. In Eurasia, on the opposite, there is decomposition, disintegration, separatism, and sovereigntization. There is some logic in it. At the phase of decay it means dismal division of the people, their hidden or evident estrangement. In some sense it is an infantile sickness, and there is no other way than to outgrow it like measles. If, on the other hand, we aggravate the disease, lethal outcome is probable, though not for entire Eurasia.

The politicians somehow or other forced to reap the fruits of totalitarian heritage as well as nationalistic matrix of Bolshevik state system fraught with dreadful consequences carry heavy burden of care. The leader of the Club of Rome was right in his forecast of inevitable interdependency of “sovereignties” as some sort of antidote, a bitter pill to swallow, a certain response of ill society to poisons of sovereignty, nationalism, ignorance, selfishness, shortsightedness, and bureaucratism. He was also right in that there are no politicians, no national leaders in any sovereignized state formation in Russia who would dare to tell the truth of Sovereignty and “sovereignties”. It is obvious that the truth beyond vain everyday political profit-making can never be favourable. Another scale, another rationality, another wisdom are required - the things presumed by personal sovereignty we are in extreme need of, not gregarious instinct so abundant.

January 16, 1998.

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